A filmmaker's real-life drama

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-12-25 07:26:43

A filmmaker's real-life drama

A scene from director Jiang Wen's new movie, Gone With the Bullets. [Photo/China Daily]

This reminds him of the fate of the main character in Gone With the Bullets, who is played by himself.

Based on a real story in 1920, the movie portrays a college-educated young man - a rarity in China then - who murdered a prostitute for her money. It grabbed the public's imagination to the extent that it spawned China's first feature-length film, among many other retellings.

Jiang twisted the tale by making him responsible for the woman's death but not a murderer.

Ma Zouri, the film's protagonist, is into bragging and acting like Marlon Brando's godfather - the first of numerous winks to classic movies - but in moments of truth he holds to his principles and refuses to compromise, which results in his own death.

When he is on the run, he is turned into a cardboard bad guy by the media and the public, who derive lots of pleasure from lynching him.

The analogy is clearly on Jiang's mind, since he feels he is being unfairly lynched by a mob.

"Some people love to see me falter," he tells China Daily.

"They were like this when my previous works came out. When Devils on the Doorstep was banned, there were celebrations."

When asked whether some in the media intend to test their ability to establish idols and then topple them, Jiang thinks for a moment and says: "Nobody is in a position to do that. We filmmakers are ultimately evaluated by our works."

Jiang elaborates that the character he plays in the movie does not necessarily reflect his own values or personality.

"Ma, in the first half of the movie, is much more unscrupulous than I'll ever be. But, in the second half, he exhibits more integrity than I'm capable of."

The absurdist tone of the film is partly lost, Jiang believes, when the beauty contest in the opening scene was required to be toned down.

"It is an event for prostitutes yet voted by the glitterati of Shanghai, and the auction item for charity is the winner's virginity. Can you imagine this actually happened in old Shanghai? But under layers of euphemisms, the sense of travesty is diminished. New Yorkers got it instantly when we tested the scene in that city."

Jiang Wen does not make conventional movies.

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